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For some, it will be hard to believe that the 9/11 terrorist attacks are already two decades in the past. It’s a wound that is still fresh for those who lost a loved one in the horrific tragedy.

That’s certainly the case for the Jalberts, who are still grieving the loss of their family patriarch. 

Twenty years ago, Robert Jalbert, a Swampscott resident, was headed to Orange, Calif. on United Flight 175. He was traveling to visit the Rogers Foam plant on business but never made it to his destination.

As soon as Mike Jalbert, Robert’s son, realized that his father was on a flight that day, he called United Airlines seeking any information about his dad. 

“The day remains quite vivid,” said Mike. 

John Vittori, who was the Jalbert family’s neighbor on Greenwood Avenue, described Robert as a good man who was very religious. The neighbor mentioned that he faithfully went to 7 a.m. mass every morning.

“He was a good dad,” said Vittori. “He had three kids and they all grew up here in Swampscott and they went through the Swampscott school systems.”

Vittori added that Jalbert and his wife, Cathie, had a very strong relationship. 

“He was just an easy-going guy,” Vittori added. “(The) last time I saw him he was rebuilding that porch, and a week later he’s gone.”

The resident of 79 Greenwood Ave. described Jalbert as a good neighbor who was also a good friend. 

While the neighborhood has changed over the years, Vittori says that neighbors still talk about the attack, and its toll on the Jalbert family. 

Robert Jalbert was raised in Lewiston, Maine and eventually settled with his family in Swampscott. The Jalberts said that Robert valued education and was very proud that his children had all graduated from college, something that he and Cathie had worked very hard to provide for them.

Thanks to Xavier University and the Jalbert family, Robert’s legacy will live on forever. The Robert Jalbert 9/11 Memorial Scholarship was created and established an exclusive relationship between Xavier and St. Dominic’s Regional High School in Lewiston, Maine ― alma mater of Jalbert and his longtime friend Dr. Roger Fortin, a history professor at Xavier University. In the hopes of helping more students from the Boston area who are interested in a Jesuit education, the family has chosen to expand the scholarship to include Swampscott High School and high schools connected with the Archdiocese of Boston.

The town of Swampscott also has a memorial on display near Town Hall featuring Jalbert’s name, along with two other Swampscott residents who lost their lives in the War on Terror. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said that the town plans on having a ceremony at Town Hall this year as a means to mark 20 years since one of America’s darkest hours. 

Fitzgerald didn’t know Jalbert personally, but said that, thanks to St. John’s Church, he knows how great a man he was.

“He was certainly an extraordinary person,” Fitzgerald said. “He was a eucharistic minister over at the church. He was really active in service.”

As Fitzgerald thinks back on 9/11 20 years later, he said it is a complicated memory. While he remembers the tragedy and loss that occurred on that horrific day, he also remembers the unity.

“Certainly I think it was a shock to all of us,” he said. “But the outpouring of support and community in the sense that we were all one nation supporting each other, shouldering each other through a tragedy, to me, was truly inspiring.”

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Those who responded to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 still remember the devastation, smells, chaos, and heartbreak that filled Manhattan. 

Killing 2,977 people, including Swampscott resident Robert Jalbert, the attacks hit close to home for many. 

Several Swampscott residents traveled to New York City to assist shortly after the attacks, saying what they saw seemed like a war zone. 

Swampscott police officers Jay Locke and Rick McCarriston drove down to New York after a call for nationwide assistance was sent out. While there, they stayed in New Jersey but went into Manhattan to escort grief counselors and clergy around, as well as uncovered body parts to their determined location. 

Locke witnessed the physical and emotional damage the attacks had on the city and its people. He remembers seeing massive fires raging out of the ground and popping up when materials at the site were moved.
He recalls the facades of surrounding buildings being stripped and seeing office chairs falling out of them onto the streets below. 

The surreal sights and devastation that accompanied the destruction of the two towers left people praying at Ground Zero and lining the streets with American flags, Locke said as he recalled a conversation with a New York City police officer who was working when the towers fell. 

This officer told Locke that it was incredible to see people choosing to jump out of the buildings rather than burn or be buried in the rubble, as his eyes gazed up and down as if he was replaying those dreadful moments in his head. 

In addition to police officers, Locke said he remembers multiple teams and search dogs at the towers site searching for survivors. 

McCarriston said most of the search dogs ended up dying because they were breathing in all of the asbestos. Between the asbestos and the smoke and debris flying through the air, McCarriston said the volunteers at Ground zero were eventually given masks and protective eye gear to wear. 

While many saw the attack and its aftermath on television, viewers were removed from the chemical and burning smells that Locke remembers. 

“I had been around house fires before, but this was a completely different smell,” Locke said. “Everything was pulverized… Debris would be moved and a fireball would just pop up out of nowhere.” 

Locke referred to the site of the former World Trade Center as “utter destruction” and something he could have never imagined. 

McCarriston described the site of the attack in a similar way, saying even after being in the police department for 20 years, his preconceptions of what he was walking into were not even close to reality. 

On the morning of 9/11, McCarriston was at his mother’s funeral, after she had lost her battle to cancer. 

The funeral directors had turned off the radios because they didn’t want McCarriston and his family and friends to have to hear more tragedy during the services. 

When he heard about the attack, McCarriston said he wanted to go down to help out people who had lost someone much younger than he just had with his mother. 

When he arrived, McCarriston said he remembers going through the Lincoln Tunnel and being engulfed by a burning smell. When he got to the tower site, the scent shifted to that of dead bodies, which he said once you smell, it never leaves you. 

McCarriston and Locke worked 16 to 20-hour days, staying busy through it all. 

From the smells to walking on piles of debris formed from former skyscrapers, McCarriston said it was “mind boggling.”

As a law enforcement officer, McCarriston said other officers and iron workers who witnessed the attack opened up to him about what it was like to see it in person. 

He recalled a conversation with a New York police sergeant who told McCarriston that he had lost a good friend to the attack. 

The sergeant was stationed at the World Trade Center with his friend for years, but he had been promoted a week before and was transferred to another location. 

His friend remained at the World Trade Center and was working there the day the towers collapsed, killing him in the process. 

McCarriston said the sergeant was suffering from survivor’s guilt because if he hadn’t been promoted or if his friend had scored higher on the test and been promoted too, then he wouldn’t have died that day. 

To put things into perspective, McCarriston said the losses sustained by the Port Authority Police Department would be equivalent to losing the entire Swampscott Police Department.

Another Swampscott resident, Ed Seligman, made his way to New York City as a logistics team manager for the Massachusetts National Urban Search and Rescue Response System (MA-TF1 in Beverly). 

Seligman, who became a Swampscott firefighter shortly after 9/11, was managing the tools and equipment for the rescue mission and setting up tents to provide food, water and equipment to the first responders. 

Similar to McCarriston and Locke, Seligman said he tried to prepare for the scene on the drive to New York, but realism sunk in when he was driving by the Hudson River and saw armed soldiers lining the streets. 

From hearing the stories of survivors to seeing Ground Zero in person, Seligman said he was in awe and there were no words to describe the situation. 

“Pictures don’t put it in magnitude,” he said. “I was taking in what happened, just looking at all of the devastation.” 

The three Swampscott residents put their lives on hold to assist with the recovery from the 9/11 attacks, but said the transition back to reality was challenging. 

Between the exhaustion and digesting everything they had seen, the three said they will never forget what they witnessed. 

When returning home, McCarriston said it was one of those things where you just had to deal with what had happened, or else it would eat you up. 

Locke said it was an honor to go down and help and said he didn’t think twice about offering a helping hand. 

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If you stand on the shore of Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn or Nahant and look out to sea to the northeast, you’ll see a small nondescript island about a mile away.

That three-acre piece of land — Egg Rock — has a rich history.

In the mid-1800s, Swampscott was home to a growing fleet of about 150 fishing vessels. After five died in an 1843 schooner wreck, many petitioned for a lighthouse on the island to guide Swampscott’s fleet safely to port. The first lighthouse was built in 1856 at a cost of $3,700 with Congressional funding, and its bright white light first shined on Sept. 15 of that year. 

Its first keeper, George B. Taylor of Nahant, lived at the lighthouse with his wife, Mary, and their children, along with chickens, goats, a tame crow, and the family dog, Milo ― a Newfoundland-St. Bernard mix of considerable size. In foggy weather, Milo also served as a kind of fog signal, barking at vessels as they came too close to Egg Rock, and newspapers made Milo a national hero for his rescues of children. 

That lighthouse burned down, but it was rebuilt in 1897. It was reported at the time that a 19-year-old local resident named Joe White was in charge of bringing materials out to the island in a dory, and it was said that he made the round-trip more than 300 times. The new lighthouse consisted of a square brick tower connected to a six-room, wood-frame dwelling. An oil house was built in 1904, and a new pier and boathouse were added in 1906. 

During World War I, the light at Egg Rock was dimmed because of fears of enemy submarines in the area. 

A series of keepers ran the lighthouse until 1919, when an automatic, gas-operated beacon was placed in the tower. 

The Daily Evening Item of Jan. 31, 1919 chronicled its arrival: “It gives one a queer, unromantic sort of feeling to look out upon the sightly landmark of Egg Rock on a winter’s evening and see the clear white gas beacon which now shines from the famous rock, untouched by the hand of man. For the long-to-be-pitied, forlorn, lonesome light keeper of Egg Rock is no more. Modern invention has supplanted this heroic figure of the north shore by an automation, in the shape of a huge tank, which quite uncannily, feeds the great beacon light of Lynn, Nahant and Swampscott shores.”

In 1922, the light was discontinued. The government sold the buildings at auction for $160, requiring the new owner to remove the buildings from the island. During this move, a cable snapped and the house tumbled into the ocean. For some time, the remains of the dwelling washed up on local beaches.The state of Massachusetts took over Egg Rock in 1927 and maintains it to this day as the home of the Henry Cabot Lodge wildlife sanctuary.

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What does $12 buy you? How about the original design used in the town seal seen on signs, badges, and official documents? 

Already a Civil War hero and famous illustrator, Charles Wellington Reed was hired by the town in 1881 to create its seal. Town Meeting members authorized the Board of Selectmen to pay Reed $12 for his labors, the equivalent of $323 in 2021 dollars.

Reed’s design depicts Capt. James Phillips standing on the aft deck (inside the rearmost part of a boat) of a fishing schooner, holding the handle to the rudder. Phillips is wearing a sou’wester, a waterproof hat, which was created in the 1800s for fishermen of the North Atlantic. Waves crest on the oceanscape on the seal and the sun is rising in the background.

Reed was no stranger to Swampscott. A Bostonian, he made summer visits to the town. But his name continues to live on in American history not only because of the seal still in use by the town.

Reed was also a documentarian of the wartime experience. He created approximately 700 sketches that illustrated the everyday lives of ordinary northern soldiers during the war and between campaigns. Now his collection is preserved in the Library of Congress. 

Reed was born in Boston on April 1, 1841 to Joseph Reed and Roxanna Richardson Reed. Some accounts say that he went to public schools and studied drawing. Others claim that he was born into a wealthy family and was educated in private schools and studied art there.

At the age of 21, Reed enlisted in the Ninth Massachusetts Light Artillery, serving much of the Civil War as a bugler. He participated in many battles including Mine Run, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Weldon Railroad. 

Many letters to his family and two sketchbooks included perceptive drawings of his wartime experience. He described in detail his daily activities in letters written to his mother and sister, Helen Reed Tilton, and illustrated in drawings both the rigors of military life and the amusing aspects of it. 

He documented in sketches and letters the ways in which soldiers adapted to seasonal changes in the weather, how they amused themselves, and the routines of camp life. He did a large amount of illustrations when stationed in or near Washington, D.C., in 1862, and when his unit was not actively campaigning. His illustrations are noteworthy for their intricate detail and humanity. 

In 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg, Reed saved the life of his battery’s captain, John Bigelow. Bigelow was wounded and incapacitated between enemy lines. Reed mounted his horse and led another horse under sustained fire to retrieve Bigelow, thereby saving his life, “cheered by the soldiers on both sides.”

It wasn’t until 1895 that his heroic deed was acknowledged. Bigelow wrote to the adjutant general of the U.S. recommending him for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg. After an eyewitness testimony corroborated Bigelow’s account of events, the secretary of war approved the nomination. 

In November of 1863, Reed broke his left hand, temporarily impacting his ability as someone who was left-handed to write and draw. As bad luck would have it, In August of 1864, his right hand was severely wounded by a saber slash during the Petersburg siege. Injuries aside, he worked to develop his artistic abilities, even gaining transfer to a map-making unit. 

After an honorable discharge in June of 1865, Reed returned to Boston and took up art seriously.  According to the Boston Globe, he became a popular illustrator, making many drawings for the paper. He illustrated a number of Civil War publications including “Hardtack & Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life”  (1887) by John Billings. He also did portraits, painted landscapes and marines. Reed had a studio at 12 West St. and later in the Studio Building at Tremont and Bromfield streets in downtown Boston.

Reed approached the task of designing the town seal thoughtfully, incorporating both a seascape and the history of the town into the seal.

The schooner that Phillips is standing on was called the Dove. Phillips, Jonathan Blaney and “others” purchased it in 1795 for offshore fishing. It weighed about 20 tons and was “the first little schooner owned in Swampscott,” according to the Swampscott Centennial Issue from March of 1952. 

Phillips was famous for introducing to the market “Phillips Beach dunfish” which was “widely known and sought after by lovers of salted fish,” as said the booklet printed in 2002 by the Historical Commission to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the town.

Two phrases frame the round seal: “Settled in 1629” and “Incorporated as Swampscott, MA 1852.” The seal can be seen adorning several locations around town. One is incorporated onto the gable of the Fish House facing Humphrey Street. The Town Hall has two more: a carved seal on a mantle over the fireplace in the Select Board meeting room and a painted seal hanging on the wall above the staircase.

According to the Library of Congress, Reed married in 1869 to Rebecca Farwell and began operating a liquor and wine store with his father-in-law in 1871. However, according to the Boston Globe obituary, he never married and was much sought after in fraternal societies.

Reed was an honored member of Grand Army of the Republic Edward W. Kinsley Post 113, where he used to draw the menus for the annual banquet. He was also a member of the Apollo Club, the second-oldest men’s singing group in the U.S., which was a source of entertainment for well-to-do Bostonians before the radio came along. 

When bicycles became popular in the 1880s, Reed became an enthusiast and a member of the old Boston Bicycle Club. He rode with the “around the hub” group annually.

When Reed died on April 29, 1926, in Norwell, where he lived in the Accord area for a few years, his obituary in the Boston Globe said that the he was “one of most famous ‘characters’ of Boston — famous as a Civil war veteran; as a Congressional Medal of Honor man; as an artist and illustrator; as a singer; as a bicyclist, and as an all-round good fellow, dearly loved by host of friends … He was bubbling over with life and energy and as ready for a frolic at 80 as he was at 30.” 

He was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. 

In 1928, his niece Grace M. Schirmer, born Grace May Tilton, donated to the Library of Congress his sketches, correspondence, articles, citations, military papers, clippings, a diary, maps, Medals of Honor and photographs known as The Charles Wellington Reed Papers.

The design of the Medal of Honor awarded to Civil War soldiers was first approved in 1862. The army’s Medal of Honor was redesigned in 1904 to preserve its distinctiveness as the highest honor awarded to soldiers. Charles W. Reed retained his original 1895 Medal of Honor as well as the redesigned version, both of which are part of the Charles Wellington Reed Papers at the Library of Congress.

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In August, a formal reveal of the Frederick Douglass sculpture by 99-year old Nahant artist Reno ‘Ray’ Pisano highlighted the official dedication of a new Lynn park named after the prominent African-American abolitionist. 

The park and Pisano’s work is adjacent to the location where Douglass was thrown off a train on Sept. 29, 1841 for protesting passenger segregation aboard the Eastern Railroad Company. 

The incident led to the Massachusetts Legislature proposing a law prohibiting common carriers from discriminating against any class of passengers. The Eastern Railroad ended up abandoning second-class cars before the bill was passed in 1843. 

At the Lynn celebration of his work, Pisano rose up from his seat on the stage to say a few words. The crowd gave him an ovation. 

“All right, already,” joked Pisano, who thanked the Lynn administration, state senators and specific people who had helped him with this project. 

“Today is Frederick Douglass Day,” the sculptor proclaimed, sharing his sentiment about the dedication. “He believed that we are all cousins. That, to me, it is a big deal. That was the essence of the Frederick Douglass purpose ― the oneness of us. We are not separated. We are of each other and that’s the thing that I felt most of all.” 

Age can’t keep Pisano from carving, casting and creating art. A town resident for more than 40 years, he has an impressive resume of sculpting accomplishments.

His work, “Tectonic Eclipse,” graces the Nahant library’s lawn. Lynn is dotted with his creations, including a Douglass monument on the common and a carved tribute to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. 

His sculptures and the material he works with reflect an inquisitive, impatient spirit that age and time have failed to tamp down. He switches from plaster to marble to granite to wood and epoxy, and his creations range from a massive likeness of P.T. Barnum to delicately rendered torsos.

For Pisano, art is not so much a process of creation as it is an exploration of the artist’s abilities.

“Most artists will produce work to impress others, but if that is your mission, it almost immediately compromises your objective,” he said. 

The son of a barber and a bridal gown designer, Pisano grew up in Lynn’s Highlands, graduated from Classical High School, and attended the Boston Museum School for a semester before joining the Army and taking part in several World War II campaigns.

He went back to school after the war and went to work for General Electric’s household division, creating stylistic designs for appliances. The father of four was married to his late wife, Mary, for 67 years.

Before channeling his energy into art, Pisano funneled it into physical fitness to overcome the effects of rheumatic fever. He lifted weights at the old Lynn Market Street YMCA and swam a mile a day. 

Like many Nahant residents, he owned a boat, but art has endured as his abiding passion. He has forged his own tools to create an implement capable of crafting clay or plaster into the creation he envisions. 

His interest in Douglass was influenced by Tom Dalton’s book, “Frederick Douglass: The Lynn Years, 1841–1848,” and the illustration on its cover, Pisano said. 

The sculptor incorporated into his work a description of the train incident and a quote from the famous abolitionist: “…justice must be done, the truth must be told, the wicked must be exposed, freedom and righteousness must be vindicated … I will not be silent.” The statue stands to the left from the “Stories of Lynn” mural, which was completed in 2014 and which also features Douglass presiding in the middle of a group of prominent Lynn residents. 

“This is way long overdue since Frederick Douglass has had such a footprint on Lynn,” said Nicole McClain, founder and director of the North Shore Juneteenth Association, who attended the dedication. 

Andrea Gayle-Bennett, from the Lynn-Swampscott E.F. Gilmore Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and a trustee of North Shore Community College, echoed the sentiment, saying “It is a source of pride for Lynn. You hear ‘Lynn, Lynn, city of sin’ all the time but look at all the wonderful things that are here in Lynn. 

“It should be Lynn Lynn, city of him, and her, and her,” added Gayle-Bennett.

Frederick Douglass Park is now officially a Department of Conservation and Recreation public property, available for daily use and events. Beside the statue, the space features a wooden stage in front of the mural, a lush lawn and benches both in the sun and shade.

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The reason 93-year-old Mary McGinn has stayed in Swampscott for so many years can be summed up in one word: pride.

Although McGinn was born in New York, she has spent the majority of her life in Massachusetts. She has lived in her current home in Swampscott for nearly 70 years. 

“The town has been very good to my family,” said McGinn. “I married my high-school sweetheart, (Lawrence McGinn), and we moved into this one house and we are still here now.”

“Larry,” as Mary calls him, was the class president and co-captain of the football team at Swampscott High School in 1946. Mary was a class officer at the town’s high school in 1945 and was on the cheerleading team from 1943-46. 

With such a lengthy tenure in Swampscott, McGinn and her family have become fixtures in the community. Her six children attended schools in Swampscott and her husband helped with the town’s athletic programs. Mary served on the town’s Finance Committee for 18 years. 

The McGinns can often be found at St. John the Evangelist Church on Sundays. Mary also helps to coordinate weddings at the church; she estimates that she has worked nearly 500 of them.  

“I started this program and I worked weddings for 14 years and I loved it,” she said. “I met all sorts of people from all areas of Swampscott or anybody that attended St. John’s church. I really had a ball doing that.”

McGinn says that much of her life has revolved around the church. She was a eucharistic prayer service minister and eucharistic ministers program administrator at the church for many years. She has also served as a pastoral council member. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Boston Archdiocesan Cheverus Medal for Service. 

One of McGinn’s daughters, Erin, said that her mother has been able to make long-lasting friendships in the town because she is a forgiving person; she generously extends second chances, silently and without leverage.

“(She is) the best person most folks will ever know,” Erin said. 

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Peter R. Beatrice Jr. and Peter Sack were remembered in October by town residents as  passionate people who were generous with their time.

Beatrice sired a family that became a part of the town’s athletic royalty and Sack left his mark as an educator and ardent supporter of that town’s sports program.

Beatrice died this past June at 93, but his obituary wasn’t published until mid-October. Meanwhile, Sack, who was principal at Swampscott High for 20 years (1983-2003) and who spent much of that time as the public-address announcer at the Big Blue home football games, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 76.

“That’s the one thing I think defines Peter Sack,” said Frank DeFelice, who was the baseball coach at Swampscott High during Sack’s tenure as principal. “He had a passion for whatever he did, whether it was as an educator or as the public-address announcer at football games. He put his all into it.” 

The Beatrice family has been a part of the Swampscott athletic picture for three generations. Peter Jr. coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball, mentoring, among his players, former Channel 5 lead anchor Mike Lynch. His sons played football at the high school, with Greg starring as an defensive lineman for the 1972 team that won the inaugural state Super Bowl. 

“Peter, his son, was one of the best quarterbacks we ever had,” said Lynch, who took over the signal-calling duties after Beatrice graduated. “His record over three seasons was 27-0. You can’t get much better than that. 

“Tom went to Harvard and Johnny (to) Colombia,” Lynch said. Moreover, Peter III’s son Kyle set a state record for passing touchdowns while leading the Big Blue to the 2003 state Super Bowl.

But Lynch preferred to speak of the patriarch of the family, who, though born in East Boston, settled in Swampscott after becoming a lawyer, making his mark as a baseball coach.

“(Beatrice) was very generous with his time,” said Lynch. “He always had time for youth sports. He was one of the first to volunteer.” 

Lynch said when he played for Beatrice’s legion teams, as many players as possible used to pile into his wagon “because he was the first guy we knew who had a phone in his car.

“I also remember that after every game, win or lose, he’d take us out for ice cream afterwards. The whole team. They’d be a caravan of cars all going to the ice-cream place.”

Former Lynn Superintendent of Schools Nicholas Kostan first met Sack when he asked the Swampscott principal to discuss a new scheduling matrix he had devised.

“I was interested in it, and wanted him to show it to me,” said Kostan. “He was always for the kids. I have fond memories of him.”

Kostan and Sack eventually worked together on the scholarship committee for the Harry Agganis Foundation.

“He did a terrific job on that committee,” said Kostan. “He was always aware of the qualifications of the candidates. He was a man of great character.”

The Beatrices, said Lynch, were an indelible family in the history of Swampscott sports, much the same as his own was, as well as the Jaurons. 

“Oh, definitely,” said Lynch. “They’re a huge part of the town’s legacy.”

More than that, he said, Beatrice was generous with both his time and his money.

“I’m sure he wound up buying equipment himself,” Lynch said. “I don’t know who came up with all the equipment. Maybe he collected some from the high school, but I’m sure he dipped into his own pocket for most of it. I don’t know who paid the umpires. He probably paid out of pocket for them, too.

“All I know is the year I went to Exeter Academy, I came home looking forward to Legion ball, and it was there because of him,” Lynch said. “Whether it was manager, general manager, field manager, third base coach … he did it all. And he never wanted anything in return.”

Sack, said former football coach and athletic director Bill Bush, was a “regular guy” as well as the high school’s principal. 

“He was very firm, but very fair in what he did,” said Bush. “He loved being the PA announcer, even though some in the town, at the time, wondered why he should have that job.

“But he did a very professional job,” Bush said. “And he was fair and impartial, not like some of the homers you saw back in those days. He just announced the game as it was played.”

“(Sack) was a legend in Swampscott Public Schools,” said current Superintendent of Schools Pamela Angelakis. “I met him as a young teacher and was at first intimidated by his intelligence and dry sense of humor. I later learned that he was a warm and caring individual with a great sense of humor. 

“I had the privilege of seeing him annually until a few years ago and I always learned something new in his presence. I will treasure the memories of those times,” she said. “He will be missed.”

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These days, Clem Schoenebeck is renowned for his poetry ― but that hasn’t always been the case. 

The Swampscott resident attended Pennsylvania State University and was a part of the school’s track and cross-country teams. He met his future wife, Bonnie, at Penn State and they were married in his senior year. 

After spending two years in the Army Dental Corps in California, the couple settled down in Swampscott where he opened a family practice in 1966.

Schoenebeck credits the spark for his poetry to the birth of his granddaughter. After seeing his daughter Kristin and newborn Alexa lock eyes for the first time he felt compelled to write a “letter of welcome” to his granddaughter. After Schoenebeck’s daughter read the letter, she told her dad that he should write more often. 

“Looking back at it, you could probably wring the page out like a sponge to squeeze all the sentimentality out of what I have put on the page,” he recalled.

Schoenebeck said his granddaughter’s birth also coincided with his search for a creative outlet. He thought about watercolor painting before delving into poetry.

He signed up for poetry workshops and the educational investment into his craft paid off. Schoenebeck has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry four times and has had a collection of his poems published by Encircle Publications. The Swampscott resident also joined the Tin Box Poets, a local collection of poets that meets once a month. 

Beside getting ideas from his own life, Schoenebeck also said that he is inspired by music.

“It sort of stirs up my creative juices and sometimes I’m more productive writing when I have choir rehearsals once or twice a week,” he said. “If the music is getting into me, it often gives me some ideas for writing.”

One of Schoenebeck’s better known works was published in 2013. “Dancing with Fireflies,” a memoir, was an honest account of growing up with a schizophrenic mother. The poet said that he was able to find healing thanks to the writing process.

“I think it’s the biggest gift,” he said. “Every day I think of my mother and it’s no longer with anger or fright.”

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Can you imagine a boy who wants to attend high school at 11 years old being told that he has to wait until he is 13? Can you imagine that boy being told he is not allowed to have books for two years? Imagine that 11-year-old boy saying, “If you do that, you might as well kill me now, cause I’ve got to have my books!”

This was Elihu Thomson, future great American inventor and prominent resident of Swampscott. He used those two years free of formal schooling to study “The Magician’s Own” book, which contained tricks and puzzles, but also experiments in electricity and chemistry.

“The electrical chapter was what struck me at once,” recalled Thomson.

The book explained how to make an electrical machine out of a wine bottle. Young Thomson made the machine and was able to get his first electrical sparks out of it.

“My father rather poo-pooed the magnitude of my efforts and I thought I had to get even with him somehow,” said Thomson in a 1932 interview with Edwin W. Rice Jr., his student, assistant, and ultimately the president of the General Electric (GE) Company. 

Thomson made a bigger battery for his wine-bottle device, which shocked his father when Elihu prompted him to touch it. 

Thomson was born on March 29, 1853, in Manchester, England. He was the second-eldest child of a Scottish father, Daniel, and an English mother, Mary Rhodes, who had 11 children, six boys and five girls. Four of the children died in their early youth.

In 1858, his parents decided to emigrate to America due to scarcity of work. They settled in Philadelphia, the second-largest industrial center in the U.S. at the time. Thomson’s father was a skillful mechanic, who traveled to Cuba and other places to set up sugar-refining machinery. However, he struggled to support such a large family. When Thomson finished high school, the family could not afford to send him to college.

Thomson showed curiosity and extraordinary abilities for a child from a young age. His mother discovered that he knew the alphabet and could recite it both forwards and backwards at 5 years old. Young Thomson taught himself.

He was highly influenced by his father’s work as an engineer and machinist as well. By his own account, he was able to visit various industrial establishments and witness the industrial processes going on, both in chemical work and also in mechanical constructions. He actively studied the two volumes of the “Imperial Journal of Arts, Sciences and Engineering,” which his family had at home.

“I was always interested in what was going on around me, such as the laying of water pipes and gas pipes in the streets, the building of sewers, etc., and spending hours watching the operations,” said Thomson. 

When he was 10 or 11 years old, he constructed a small model of cupola furnaces with fan blowers and succeeded in melting cast iron; however, the iron that was melted was not sufficient enough to run into a mold, which was Thomson’s ultimate goal.

He also had a great interest in astronomy. In the summer of 1858, when he was 5 years old, Thomson saw the Donati’s comet, and in 1867 he witnessed spectacular meteor showers. In 1878, he published an account of a method of grinding and polishing glass specula, and in 1899 he began the construction of a telescope for his private observatory, including making the optical parts for the 10-inch reflector. The observatory was located on the lawn near his house, which is now the Swampscott Town Hall, but was later removed and donated to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. 

Thomson attended the boys’ Central High School in Philadelphia. He graduated with honors and accepted employment in a commercial laboratory which analyzed iron ore and other minerals. After about six months he returned to Central High School with a title of adjunct professor to the Department of Chemistry and a salary of $500 per year (about $10,730 in today’s money).

Student Edwin Rice was 14 when he met 23-year-old professor Thomson at Central High School, who was keen to teach the eager student. 

“To me he has been ‘my professor’ ever since I first met him,” Rice said. “It is my recollection that there was no question that I asked to which I failed to obtain a satisfactory reply, expressed in language that I could understand.” 

One of the senior professors whom Thomson assisted at Central High School was Edwin J. Houston, who held the chair of Physical Geography and Natural Philosophy. The two soon started to collaborate in the evenings on investigations and formed a long partnership,   inventing devices, especially in electricity. 

“Not infrequently I would leave home after breakfast and not eat or drink anything until I got home again at 11 in the evening,” wrote Thomson. “I’ve always believed in long hours. It’s the only way to get things done.”

In 1876-77, Thomson gave lectures on electricity at the Franklin Institute, an important center of American science and technology in the 19th century. The following year, he and Houston tested dynamos of different types at the institute, which prompted Thomson to design and build a dynamo for a single-arc light. 

That formed the basis of the later development of the Thomson-Houston arc-light system that involved several unique features, including three-phase winding and the automatic regulating system, which kept the current in the light circuit at an even value, no matter how many lights were on that circuit.  

Next, they invented an air-blast method to extinguish an arc, the magnetic blowout which employs a magnetic field to extinguish an arc and a lightning arrester.

Thomson and Houston were able to get business backers to market their lighting system. They have created a lighting system for a bakery that was open all night long and for a brewery. 

In 1880, Thomson was approached by Frederick Churchill, a young lawyer from New Britain, Conn., who had just organized the American Electric Company. The American Electric Company bought control over the Thomson-Houston patents and Thomson resigned from Central High School to become an “electrician” at the company.

When leaving Philadelphia for Connecticut, Thomson took Rice with him. In New Britain, Thomson focused on improving the arc-lighting system but since the market for commercial electric-lighting systems didn’t exist yet, the company was struggling.

Meanwhile, in Lynn, a group of investors, including Silas Barton, Henry Pevear, and shoe-manufacturer Charles Coffin, were looking to invest. Electrical lighting looked like a promising new industry for them. 

In 1882, Barton and Pevear went to Boston to examine an electric-lighting system that had been installed in a shop on Tremont Street. They slipped down the back stairs to the dynamo that was powering the system and located a brass plate that read “American Electric, New Britain, Connecticut.”

The next day, they traveled to New Britain, where they met Thomson and his associates. They convinced Thomson to let them buy the American Electric Company, leave New Britain and form a new company with them in Lynn. 

Coffin became the president of the new company. With Coffin assuming the burden of finance and management, Thomson was free to give undivided attention to research and technical development, and for the first time he was able to surround himself with competent assistants. 

The Thomson-Houston Electric Company installed street lighting at 166 Market St. in Lynn, and the merchants in the area began to subscribe to their service. Market Street became the first street with commercial lighting in New England.

The Thomson-Houston Company grew rapidly. In 1884, it employed 184 workers. By 1892, when it merged with its competitor, the Edison GE Company of Schenectady, N.Y., the number had grown to 4,000 employees. The result of the merger was the GE Company, with Coffin as president and Rice, who had been manager of the Lynn plant, as vice president and technical director. 

Thomson’s contributions to the success of this great industrial organization was in industrial research.

Thomson married his first wife, Miss Mary Louise Peck, in 1884. Together they had four sons — Stuart, Roland, Malcolm and Donald. They lived in Lynn until 1889, when Thomson purchased a prime piece of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the Swampscott Land Trust.

The Thomson house was designed by architect James T. Kelly in the Georgia revival style and was built in 1889. Thomson designed and built a steam boiler to heat the house, installed his electric-lighting system, but also included eight fireplaces in the house.

The second floor of the carriage house was designed and built to accommodate a laboratory for his work. 

He also installed a pipe organ — the one that he built as a teenager, which he had brought to Swampscott from Philadelphia.The pipes were installed in a grid above the second-floor ceiling. 

He also built a miniature railroad of about 100 yards for his sons.

He donated the land next to his home to the Town of Swampscott for a town library to be built. 

One might think that a scientist of his intellect and intense work ethics would be reserved and strict. But Thomson lived a rich family life, actively engaged with his sons, and went camping and hiking in the Adirondacks and Catskills.  

There is old video footage showing him playing with his grandchildren in the large front yard of his Swampscott home and reading to them. 

The Thomson’s house was always open to visitors, including other outstanding scientists of the time, including Nikola Tesla. 

Thomson’s friend and MIT president from 1909-20, Dr. Richard C. Maclaurin, said that Thomson showed an intense desire to help all who were struggling earnestly with scientific problems. Many engineers came to him with their secret projects.

“They have done this, knowing that they had only to ask in order to get the full benefit of his imagination and his power, and that they need have no misgivings that he would take any advantage of their confidence or any credit for their work, for he has no touch of selfishness,” Maclaurin said.

Thomson was asked to become the MIT president as well, but declined the offer because he felt that the research he wanted to do would be hindered by the administrative work the position would require. Still, in 1920-23, he was convinced to assume the obligations of the acting president because the president of MIT at the time became ill.

After 32 years of a happy marriage, Thomson’s wife died in 1916. In 1923, at 70 years old, Thomson married again to Clarissa Hovey of Boston. Together they began to travel a lot.

The prominence of Thomson is indisputable. He took a prominent place among the brilliant group of scientists who worked on solving the problem of generating adequate current, including Brush, Edison, Siemens, Stanley, Tesla, Van Depoele, Weston, and others.

Over his inventor’s career, Thomson patented almost 700 inventions. He is still one of the leading patent holders in America.

His awards include the Franklin Medal, the Faraday Medal, the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, the Edison Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Rumford Medal, and the 1889 Great Prize from the Paris Exposition.

Thomson died at 84 on March 13, 1937. His home was partially donated to the town by his heirs in 1944.An ongoing exhibition of the artifacts of the inventor’s career and life, “Elihu Thomson’s Inventive Life,” can be viewed until April at the Swampscott’s Town Hall during normal business hours.

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